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POST TIME: 10 February, 2019 10:36:03 AM
The history of the battle of February
If anyone wants to know the real history of the development of Banlga language and culture they would need to know the leadership and contribution of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to liberate not only the people of Bangladesh but its language and culture also
Abdul Gaffar choudhury

The history of the battle of February

Bangla is an ancient language. Its oldest literary work, Charya Shahittaya is almost 1000 years old. The book written in the oldest form of Bangla was discovered in Nepal in the late 19th Century. The Brahmin rulers of ancient Bangla treated Bangla as the language of the untouchables. It was not an Ariyan language. The-then Brahmin rulers of Bangla hated this language so much that they declared it as the language of hell, and banned the reading of the Hindu religious script, Veda in Bangla. The dominant population of ancient Bangla were Buddhists and when Buddhist Pundits became afraid that the Brahmin rulers wanted to abolish Bangla language from their soil and would torture them for cultivating this language they fled from the country to Nepal with the books known as the Charya literature.
In the Pathan era, especially during the regime of Hussain Shah, Bangla got some patronization in the Nawab's Darbar. The language also flourished with the mixture of Persian, Turkish and Arabic languages and literature. Still the Bangla language could not get a place among the aristocrats and the ruling classes. The Bangla language, in its present form started from the early period of the British rule. To preach Christianity among the Bengalis of the lower strata Christian missionaries started cultivating the Bangla language. The newly English educated class came to know the vastly developed English Literature and under its influence the lyric, drama, short story and other branches of literature were introduced and developed in Bangla language.

Gradually, Bangla language started to gain the status of an aristocratic language and Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar and Raja Ram Mohan Roy revolutionized the language and literature of Bangla. But the language came under the heavy influence of Sanskrit grammar and there was a counter movement to keep it as a protégé of Arabic and Persian languages. This fight though it lasted very long, a modern and very powerful Bangla language developed at the end which is still dominating the language and culture in both Bangladesh and West Bengal. After achieving Noble Prize in Bangla literature Rabindranath Tagore raised Bangla to its highest peak and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, after achieving independence for Bangladesh (erstwhile East Bengal) declared Bangla as state language. He delivered his historic speech in Bangla in the United Nations and made it a universally accepted developing language.  

If anyone wants to know the real history of the development of Banlga language and culture they would need to know the leadership and contribution of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to liberate not only the people of Bangladesh but its language and culture also. He is known not only as the founding father of Bangladesh, but also as a great liberator of its language and culture. He placed Bangladesh as an independent country in the map of the world. His greatest contribution is to give Bangla a world status by making it the state language of an independent country and deliver his speech in the United Nations in that language.

One day history will recognize him not only as a great political leader but a great cultural leader of the country also. His fight was not only to establish Bangladesh as an independent country but to establish a cultural nationhood of Bangla speaking people. He mixed his fighting career as a political and cultural activist and he started this in the early period of his political life. In the beginning of 1947 when creation of Pakistan by division of India was accepted, some political observers wanted to know from Mr. Jinnah, the Muslim League leader, what will be the shape and character of the new state? Jinnah avoided the answer of this question every time and his only answer was, 'I will explain when the time comes'. He was asked how a country divided by 1500 miles with no land connection and diversity in language, food and culture will survive and power will be distributed between the two wings. Jinnah could not or did not answer these questions also.

At this time in Calcutta in the undivided Bengal a meeting was arranged by student Muslim League of Bengal in the office of The Millat, an organ of Muslim League. This organization though was not divided officially, had two strong groups. One group was headed by Sheikh Mujib, the leader of the progressive group and the other was headed by Shah Azizur Rahman, known as the leader of the reactionary group of student league.

Before the partition took place, in that meeting Sheikh Mujib said, 'We must know how the power will be distributed between the two wings of Pakistan.  East Pakistan should get equal power with West Pakistan. Otherwise, the East wing will be an economic and political colony of the West wing. We are the majority people (Bangla speaking) in Pakistan. We could claim Calcutta is the most developed city in the British Empire and this city should be the capital of Pakistan. We could demand as the language of the majority people Bangla should be the state language of the newly created state. We did not press for these demands but we hope that Bangla will be one of the state languages and Urdu will be the lingua Franca. To satisfy the need of the defence of East Pakistan the naval headquarter should be established in Chittagong'.

Sheikh Mujib's demands were vigorously opposed by Shah Aziz and his group but the demand for the Bangla language to be adopted as one of the state languages of Pakistan got wide support from the students. In the early part of 1948, when Mohammed Ali Jinnah as the Governor General of Pakistan declared in Dhaka that Urdu will be the only state language of Pakistan, there was protest from Naimuddin Ahmed, a student leader and his associates. He got strong support from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his group in Student League.

First the demand from the student community of East Pakistan was to make Bangla the provincial official language. Sheikh Mujib took leadership of this movement with his other young colleagues like Oli Ahad and courted arrest. He also faced police attack on him. For this movement the-then Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin had to make a treaty with the leaders of the movement that his provincial government will accept the demand and will introduce Bangla as the official language of the province. But later on he broke his promise.

In 1951 Khwaja Nazimuddin as the governor general of Pakistan (after the death of Jinnah in 1948) came to visit Dhaka and repeated the declaration of Jinnah that Urdu will be the only state language of Pakistan. All Students all over the province protested against this declaration and a strong movement started. The movement known as the language movement which started in 11th March of 1948 after the declaration of Jinnah gathered a new impetus after Nazimuddin's speech. Sheikh Mujib, with other leaders of the movement called a meeting at Mahbub Ali Institute, Dhaka and in that meeting he declared, 'So long our demand was to make Bangla the official language of the province. Now with the change of the situation, we demand Bangla to be the one of the state languages of Pakistan and we will continue our fight till our demand is met'.

At the same time a general meeting was held in Mahbub Ali Institute, where Sheikh Mujib declared that considering the geographical distance between the two wings of Pakistan we need two economy for the country. This was supported by some prominent economists and this movement along with the language movement was known as movement for two economy. Gradually, Sheikh Mujib became a great young leader of the political, cultural and economic movement of the-then East Pakistan.

In 1952 a meeting was held in the premises of the University of Dhaka's old building to decide whether the students will violate the 144 which was imposed by the provincial government to prevent the procession of students demanding Bangla to be declared as one of the state languages. There was an all-party action committee for language, which was hesitating to violate the 144 but the student action committee was considering to violate it in the premises of the University of Dhaka. There were differences of opinion and at one point it was thought that the violation of 144 would not get approval for the student gathering. At that time Sheikh Mujib was in jail and sent a secret message to the student leaders that they should go for a strike without hesitation.  

That day the provincial assembly was in session and when the student procession was passing the assembly house police open fired and killed a dozen of the unarmed students. Among the martyrs were Salam, Barkat, Jabbar and many others. Getting this news in jail Sheikh Mujib declared his solidarity and started a hunger strike which lasted almost 17 days. With the fall of the Nazimuddin government language movement became a great success and Bangla was declared the state language along with Urdu.

In 1954 when a political alliance against the anti-Muslim League (ruling party) was formed named Joint Front under three leaders-Fazlul Huq, Maulana Bhashani and Shaheed Surwahardy, a famous politician and litterateur, Abul Mansur Ahmed was given the main responsibility to draft the election manifesto which was known famously as the 21 demands (Ekush Dofa). Sheikh Mujib, was then a young activist of the alliance and he demanded that Bangla as a state language should be included in the manifesto.

In 1954 Joint Front won a land slide victory in the election, formed a government but was dismissed by the central government illegally. Sheikh Mujib was put to jail with other leaders. In 1958 General Ayub took the power by a military coup and tried to convert Bengali alphabets with English and create a language called Roman Bengali. His government also tried to practically ban Tagore songs in Pakistan. The progressive intellectuals of the country stood solidly against this cultural aggression against Bangla language and culture. A section of old Awami League leaders, Sheikh Mujib's own party collaborated with Ayub's scheme. Sheikh Mujib stood against Ayub's cultural conspiracy and supported the young and progressive intellectuals' movement.

Before the election in 1971 under martial law regime Sheikh Mujib declared in the meeting of the Paltan Maidan in Dhaka, that From today no more East Pakistan. We will go back to our original name Bangladesh and we will be known as Bangalis'. After the independence of Bangladesh Bangla was declared as the state language and he delivered his first speech in the United Nations in Bangla. A British journalist called him a poet of politics and said, 'In Sheikh Mujib we find the combination of two great leaderships- one is political and the other, cultural. He is the saviour of a nation and a language'. His daughter, Sheikh Hasina who is undoubtedly a great leader like her father, has successfully followed Sheikh Mujib’s legacy not only in the political field but also in the cultural arena. The initiative to make 21st February an international Mother language day though came from Bangladeshis living overseas, but to make this accepted by UNESCO was achieved by Sheikh Hasina. She is also a great patron of Bangla language and culture and established a Bangladesh Bhaban in Shanti Niketan in India, where Tagore had established a university and cultural center.

London, Friday 08 February, 2019

SHK